Tag Archives: Holidays

Halloween Celebrations from Around the Globe

In America, Halloween is truly an all-ages celebration. For kids, the day means trick-or-treating, costume parades, and an excuse to indulge in candy. For adults, the day/night entails house parties and bar crawls, costume contests, and an excuse to indulge in candy (among other things)! Throw in a haunted house or a Jack-O-Lantern carving party and Halloween has become a holiday with reliable traditions. Itching to try something new? Consider celebrating Halloween abroad this year! The following destinations have their own distinct versions of America’s spookiest celebration.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.45.16 AM

1. Mexico

Perhaps the most famous Halloween celebration outside the U.S. occurs in Mexico, where November 1 is known as the Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Many countries throughout Latin America celebrate the day, but Mexico is where the tradition of honoring the dead with lively festivals originated. With roots in both indigenous Aztec rituals as well as the Catholicism brought to the region by the Spanish, the day celebrates the lives of those who have left us with food, drink, parties and activities that the deceased enjoyed when alive. Celebrators of the Dia de Los Muertos reason that the deceased would prefer this to the more expected mourning and sadness accompanying loss. Skeletons (calaveras) and skulls (calacas) are a recurring motif, appearing in many forms ranging from sweets to masks and dolls. These are not the somber black and white skulls accompanying American Halloween celebrations: The calacas and calaveras are colorful and are shown dressed in their best clothing and enjoying life. Visitors staying in Mexico City should check out the affordable and family-friendly Hotel Sybharis or the luxurious and modern Hilton Mexico City Reforma.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.46.16 AM

2. Ireland

Many historians suggest the origins of Halloween took root in Ireland, namely in the ancient Irish festival of the dead, known as Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). Celtic lore divides the year into halves, associated with dark and light, and Samhain marks the beginning of the dark half at sunset on November 1st. (The light half begins at sunset on May 1st, the festival of Bealtaine.) Ancient traditions included communal feasts that included the dearly departed as guests; windows and doors were left unlatched, and the food set aside for them had to be untouched by mortals, as it would condemn that person to a hungry spirit in the afterlife. Nowadays, bonfires are lit in rural areas across Ireland, and children dress in costumes. County Meath hosts a yearly Samhain festival and is conveniently 40 minutes north of Dublin. Travelers should check out the budget-friendly Croke Park Hotel or the luxurious Merrion Hotel, which boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.46.39 AM

3. The United Kingdom

Our neighbors across the pond have their own Halloween-like ritual, but it occurs a few days later, on November 5. Though Guy Fawkes Day shares some traditions with the American Halloween and Irish Samhain, its origins are entirely unique. The day and night’s festivities are designed to commemorate the notorious Englishman Guy Fawkes, a Catholic who was executed on November 5, 1606 after being convicted of attempting to blow up Parliament and oust the Protestant King James from power. The original Guy Fawkes Day occurred moments after his execution, with celebratory “bone fires” set up to burn effigies and “bones” of the Catholic pope. Two centuries later, the effigies burned became those of Fawkes. Children in some parts of the country walked the streets carrying effigies and asking “for a penny for the guy” and imploring everyone to “remember, remember the Fifth of November.” Nowadays, thanks to graphic novels like V for Vendetta and its accompanying film, Fawkes has transformed from traitor into revolutionary, with masks of his face being worn at protests such as Occupy Wall Street. London is well worth visiting to experience the bonfires and celebrations, and travelers should consider the quaint Colonnade Hotel, a refurbished Victorian townhouse in central London, or the glamorous Strand Palace, located in the Covent Garden neighborhood.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.47.11 AM

4. The Philippines

Those wishing to journey to a more tropical location should check out All Saints and All Souls Day in the Philippines on November 1st. Filipino traditions include visiting the tombs of deceased family members in order to clean and repair them, and offering prayers, flowers, and candles. Many also hold reunions at the graves themselves, where they play games and music, sing karaoke, and feast. The day is meant to remember deceased loved ones, reflect on their influence, and continue to seek guidance from them. First-time visitors to the island should try staying in Manila, which boasts numerous five star yet affordable lodgings such as the Manila Hotel and the New World Manila Bay Hotel.

The Beautiful Temples of Kanchipuram, South India

Temples are located throughout India, and Asia for that matter, but the ones in South India are gigantic and architecturally brilliant. I was born and brought up in India and our favorite family activity during the holidays was to visit one temple after the other, right from a young age. Religious tourism is the popular with most families in India, including mine. When I was young, visiting temples was like a picnic, a family outing. With age, the temple visits have lessened but I have always had a special place for temples in my heart.


One of the beautiful Hindu temples in Kanchipuram, India


This specific temple, Ekambareswarar Temple, is particularly beautiful; it is located in a temple town called Kanchipuram, near Chennai, in South India. Ekambareswarar temple was initially constructed in the 7th Century AD and since then it has undergone many modifications and additions and the temple now stands at an impressive 59 meters high.

Kanchipuram, one of the more popular temple towns in India, is called the “Land of 1000 Temples,” and for good reason—the town has been in existence for a very, very long time. In fact, written history of this temple town goes back to at least the 5th Century BC. South Indian temples, unlike their North Indian counterparts, have been relatively lucky because their location down in the south shielded them from the destruction caused by wars and foreign conquests. Hence, there are many ancient temples in this region that have survived—almost completely intact—until today.


One of the things I love best about the temples in the south are the intricately carved stone sculptures. These beautiful carvings and sculptures can be found on the temple’s towers, the walls, on the pillars, practically everywhere. Even smaller temples in the region have beautiful stone-art inscribed right into the temple structures. One neat thing, if you look closely at the temple towers, many resemble pyramids because pyramids concentrate energy at their base-point (that’s why corpses are kept there in many cultures). Similarly, here in India, the pyramid temple towers concentrate energy at the base and that’s one reason people walking through and around the temple often feel refreshed.

Personally, though I don’t often visit the temples for praying, I do visit them to capture the beautiful sculptures and stone-carvings in my camera. It is unfortunate that many temples in India (including this one) do not allow photography inside, but even with that rule in place, I always end up with some beautiful photos of the outside—if these are the type of sculptures you can see on the outside of these temples you can imagine how many more beautiful ones decorate the inside!


It takes many years to build a tower like these, and the sculptures inside the Temple were carved over centuries and by many hands. The Ekambareswarar Temple (also called as Ekambaranathar Temple) is one of the most popular temples in Kanchipuram, and I think for good reason. Inside the temple you’ll discover a thousand-pillared hall, a huge temple pond surrounded by long steps, a 2000 year old mango tree bearing four types of mango fruits, and many other beautiful offerings and additions to make the temple a holy and welcoming place.  Also, located right next to the temple (in a 300-year old heritage house) is the Shakuntala Jagannathan Museum of Fine Arts, which is worth visiting while you’re on the temple grounds. And since photography is prohibited inside, you’ll just have to go yourself to see the inside of the gorgeous Ekambareswarar Temple.

As for visiting, foreigners and visitors are very much allowed inside the temple (except a small hall where the main deity is kept). If you visit you should buy and eat the prasadam, food offerings, called Puliodharai, Vadai and Chakkarai pongal. These foods are made from rice and are very tasty— my favorite, so don’t miss!  🙂

Photos by Destination8Infinity.


I live in South India, I travel around South India, I blog about South India at Destination Infinity. Forget Taj Mahal, Forget Jaipur Palaces, Forget Delhi/Mumbai. The real gems of India are in the South. Welcome.

More Posts - Website

Chiang Mai – A welcoming Oasis filled with wonder and intrigue

Chiang Mai, Thailand – At a first glance

There’s only a few places on Earth which can create such an immediate feeling of coming home again on your first visit, as Chiang Mai can. A large, yet peaceful city of just over 1 million inhabitants, Chiang Mai is situated in the hills of Northern Thailand. It’s picturesque backdrop of rolling mountains and lush green jungle, is complimented by it’s ancient history, which is still visible around nearly every turn! With an endless supply of activities  delicious food, and smiling locals, it’s no wonder so many expats choose to live here – some short term, others, indefinitely.

I remember when I first arrived to Chiang Mai, I was first taken by it’s awesome location. High in the hills, it sits very close to the Burmese border. This has given it a rich history of both cultural mixing, and invasions. A notable feature is the incredibly large moat and old city walls which still protect the old city’s centre. You are immediately inundated with historical features, which bring light to the magic of a city of such long standings.

In addition to Chiang Mai’s rich history, it is also one of the most spiritual cities, with ornate Thai Buddhist temples hiding at almost every turn! I spent countless days wandering the winding old streets, and exploring the shoeless temples at almost every chance I got. Not only can you explore these beautiful temples, you are often welcomed into the ceremonies and services being conducted within them, as long as you keep a respectful air about you while there.

The food is really one of the biggest highlights for me, being a long time foodie! Not only do they have one of the best, (and CHEAPEST) selections of street food I’ve seen in all of Thailand, there’s a seemingly endless variety of choice for foreign foods as well! From Mexican, to French, to Italian cuisine, they seem to have a knack for doing an exceptional job no matter what food is being prepared. You will also find Thai dishes which are more exclusive to the North. My favourites being Massaman – a peanut-beef curry, and Kow Soy – a crunchy noodle curry.

For anyone looking for somewhere to have a quick visit, or even to settle down and try a new, longer-term adventure, I would recommend putting Chiang Mai high on your bucket-wish-list. It truly has a welcoming charm, giving anyone who visits a sense of finding a home and comfort.

Ian Ord

An explorer since birth, Ian has now spent the better half of his life travelling. Spanning all 7 continents, and leaving no stone unturned, he continues to pursue discover new cultures, festivals, foods and all the other riches the world has to offer.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterGoogle Plus

Hit the Snow in Niseko

Snow lovers, skiing gurus, and anyone who lives on a snowboard need to head to Niseko. Move over Aspen and Swiss Alps and welcome to Japan. The Niseko Ski Resort is in Hokkaido and is famous throughout the world for all it has to offer for those who live to ski and snowboard. Part of the reason Niseko is such a draw to snow enthusiasts is the continuous supply of fresh powder. There is no need to make snow because more is always on the way in Niseko making for the best conditions on the mountain and the envy of other leading ski resorts. For people on holiday or those who have come to train, this is a snow paradise.

Awarded with the impressive advantage of offering “the best skiiing in Japan,” Niseko has runs for every type of person on skis or a snowboard. The beginner can make those first baby steps into the sport, amateurs will find plenty of opportunities to learn more skills, intermediates can hit slopes geared for their level, and the most advanced will find their dreams coming true when they come to Niseko. Alpine and tree skiing are offered at Niseko which places it above other locations that are not as diverse. Another positive feature of Niseko is easy access. There are numerous accommodations available throughout the region within a short distance of the resort. People can make their way in and get to the lift without a problem.

In regards to conditions, Niseko is a location that does not get kissed by the sun very often. It is always cold and the snow is plentiful. For the person who wants to take a sunbath while hitting the slopes, they’ll need to rearrange their expectations. Niseko is the hot spot for anyone looking for perfect powder. It’s the largest that Japan has to offer, composing of four areas. Niseko Village, Hanazano, Hirafu, and An’nupuri are all connected and provide anyone on skis or a snowboard with plenty of opportunities to explore an ample selection of trails.

Niseko is close to an international airport and shuttle service is available. For anyone with big plans to hit the slopes, they should put Niseko on their bucket list as a prime location for the ski and snowboarding experience of their dreams. Niseko is waiting to pull them in and bring them to new heights. For those who are dabbling in the sport for the first time, they may find themselves turning professional. Experience Niseko and all that Japan has to offer as well. Experience a new culture and a warm welcome from the Japanese. Take a taste of fine cuisine, find the popular places for night life with the locals and see what talented artisans have to offer for memories from the travel experience of a life time. Niseko will give people the powder they’ve been waiting for, a bite of Japan, and a memorable moment that will make them want to come back for more snow!

Come find out why Pamukkale is Turkey’s greatest hidden treasure

Pamukkale is a stunning wonder to behold and a very surreal experience for anyone visiting this amazing place. Etched into the Turkish hillside in Aegean, amongst the searing heat and sweltering sunshine lies the perfectly white mountains of Pamukkale. At first glance you may believe you’re staring out at the famous Rockies or the French Alps, as Pamukkale’s white, snow-like, appearance really gives it that chilling impression. This is what makes the Pamukkale Mountains such a surreal experience when you’re trekking along its trails, as you feel you should be cold being surrounded by so much white but you are most definitely not!

The Turkish summers are well renowned for being long, dry, and very very hot! Luckily Pamukkale has many beautiful pools of mountain springs you can cool down in whilst exploring this epic natural phenomena. Watch out though, some of the springs are hot so maybe not the best thing if your wanting to cool down. However, the hot springs are perfect if you are on a romantic, midnight stroll and fancy a dip with a bottle of champagne or two!

Now for all you geologist geeks out there let’s go in to how the amazing white mountains of Pamukkale were created and the hardcore facts. Pamukkale gains its white appearance from being made up of the rock calcium carbonate, which is deposited by the hot water springs that travel over 320 meters from the River Menderes, which is located deeper in the Aegean valley. When the calcium carbonate is despoiled on the surface, carbon dioxide is released and continues to do this until it is at a equilibrium with the water in the air. The chemical reaction between the calcium carbonate is intensified by the heat and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Although it is hard for geologist to pin point exactly, they estimate that up to 4.9 square kilometres of the Pamukkale landscape is covered by the white calcium carbonate with a 1mm of thickness due to this constant chemical reaction between the rock and atmosphere.

Pamukkale meaning ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, has been a protected World Heritage Site since 1988 and was first discovered by the ancient Greco-Romans in the 5th century. The Greco-Romans were as mesmerised with Pamukkale as people still are today, as they built their famous city of Hierapolis very close to it. The Hierapolis ruins are still a major attraction as you can still explore the ruins of this wonderful city and swim over its huge ancient remnants in the Cleopatra pools located here.

The former Roman Baths of the city of Hierapolis are still in use today and have been converted into a Archaeology Museum since 1984. The museum holds many stunning artefacts and is definitely worth a peek whilst visiting this magical place.

So, if you’re in the mood for something different and wish to explore a place truly out of this world (and maybe even stay in villas in turkey), Pamukkale is definitely for you!

St Lucia, The Caribbean’s Hidden Little Gem

The Caribbean islands are world famous for being exotic, vibrant and full of reggae reggae rhythms! When you visit here be prepared to not ever want to leave, as you will be entranced like so many poor souls before you will its stunning natural beauty and energetic national character.

St Lucia has to be one of the most overlooked Caribbean islands in contrast to its popular neighbors’ Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua. But the island of St Lucia is in a league all its own, and due to its lower profile than its sistering islands it has a lot more unspoilt natural beauty and hidden treasures to offer the more intuitive traveler.

Unlike the other Caribbean Islands St Lucia is more renowned for Jazz than Reggae, and you’ll definitely be able to hear that intoxicating rhythm wherever you go. To sample a real taste of St Lucia’s Jazz delights, you should come to the island when they hold their annual Jazz festivals all throughout the summer seasons. Such events as ‘Jazz on the beach’ and ‘Tea time Jazz’ are acclaimed throughout the global Jazz community and see the likes of the Pantime Steel Band, Luther Francois and the amazing Black Ants Band rock the crowds here to the point of euphoric hysteria! Last year the infamous Shaggy graced the stage of this monumental Jazz scene, who has enjoyed international stardom from hits such as ‘Mr Boombastic’ and ‘You’re my angel’. The St Lucia Jazz festivals also allows amateur musicians to have a go at entertaining the Jazzed up crowds if you so wish to. So if you fancy yourself as a bit of a Jazz musician, get in contact with the main orgainsers before you go, there details can be found on the St Lucia’s Jazz homepage.

St Lucia also holds annual Carnival events in July that have built up such a reputation, it now rivals the world famous Brazilian Carnivals. This is because St Lucia’s Carnivals incorporate many many different cultural forms from all over the world such as art, music, dance, theater and costume, but also with a unique style and touch all their own! Thousands of visitors flock to St Lucia every year for these special events and if you’re a fan of soca and Calypso music you will be in your utopia! They also hold a ‘Carnival Queen’ title, but beware the locals prepare most of the year hoping to win this prestigious honor so the competition is fierce!

If all the above hasn’t persuaded you to come to St Lucia yet, maybe the 19,000 acres of beautiful natural rainforest might tempt you a little more. From heavenly hummingbirds to swooping tree bats and a vast array of mesmerizing tropical plants and flowers, you will be in your element trekking through these magnificent jungles. There are lots of guided tours on offer when you get to St Lucia, all offering a variety of different walks and Jungle activities.

What are you waiting for? Come to St Lucia and have the holiday of a lifetime!